Friday, October 23, 2009

A good devotional site to check out

Devotional Christian

Good resources, and they're giving away some free books.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reformation vs. Enlightenment

This says it a lot better than I have so far. But I've got more to say soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

If it ain't Baroque . . .

Now, in contrast to Schoenberg, the atonal serialist, let's take a look at J.S. Bach. Bach was every bit the mathematician that Schoenberg was, and he used it to incredible effect. Bach took counterpoint and harmony to unprecedented heights, and his fugues were astonishing in their complexity.

Bach was a product of the Reformation. A Lutheran choirmaster, he signed his cantatas "SDG" at the bottom of the page. There is no question that he understood what it meant to write music to the glory of God. He took great joy in doing so. And he wrote works of intense beauty that greatly influenced the next two centuries of music. Without Bach, Mozart would not have been the artist that he was. Neither would Beethoven or any of the great composers who followed.

Bach intended to build on what had been given to him, and he did so in service to his King. The result was beauty.

Schoenberg intended to destroy what had come before him, and he did so to the glory of reason. The result was, well, ugly.

There's a couple of centuries between the two men. During those two centuries, artists kneaded the leaven of the Enlightenment into the dough of creativity. There was a process. It took time. But the next chance you get, go to a museum and compare the art from the Baroque period to that of the early- to mid- 20th century. There is an objective difference.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How exactly does this work?

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
(Exodus 20:4 ESV)
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.
(Exodus 25:18-20 ESV)
I realize that this is not directly about music. But I think there's something here. Work it out.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An idol is, well, an idol.

Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, "Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire." But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god." They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend. No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!" He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
(Isaiah 44:14-20 NASB)
Over in Frank's meta, I made mention of a certain Mr. Schoenberg, who was a composer in the previous century. His purpose was to make mincemeat of the tonal system, so that all 12 notes in the scale carried equal weight; none would stand as a tonal center and there would be no possibility of resolution. Schoenberg had faith in the rationality of man, and wished music to reflect his hope in this mathematical rationality. This is the clearest example I can give of music being idolatry.

Now, it doesn't take long before someone says, "How can you say that Schoenberg is objectively bad or harmful?" I want to note here that I have chosen my words carefully. That's why I have not said that Schoenberg's music is bad, nor that it is harmful to listen to.

Idols are always crafted by someone, and a good idolater crafts his idol well. One can see the art of the idol. If the idol had not been well-crafted, the idolater probably wouldn't worship it. But it takes a worshiper of the true God to see the truth behind the false god, even while appreciating the craft that went into making the false god. But a true worshiper is not going to make the same kind of art as the idolater, because he is not in the service of a false god.

Thinking about music. No, I mean, like really thinking about it.

Blogger Frank Turk has begun to sound off on what makes good and bad music, and he's setting his sights on rap in particular. Well and good. Frank's one of my favorite thinkers. But he's thinking on my turf, so I'm going to weigh in from a different angle. We'll see where our conclusions end up.

And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
(Isaiah 6:5 ESV)
Because I am talking about music in our culture, I give the caveat that I am a musician in our culture. I'm not pretending that I stand outside its influence to be a critic. But I can take what God has commanded us clearly and objectively in Scripture and apply that to music. Sound fair?

Here we go:

"'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "'You shall have no other gods before me.
(Deuteronomy 5:6-7 ESV)

Music does not exist for its own sake. Because it is in the realm of creation, it exists by the will of and for the pleasure of Jesus Christ (Col 1:16). And that doesn't mean just "worship music." That means all music, period. It accomplishes what He wants it to accomplish. God loves music and has a wonderful plan for its life. Heh.

So here's a question. How is it possible for music to have a god? Is it possible for music to be idolatrous in any sense (remember: just the music, not the lyrics)?